Thursday, August 25, 2016


This native flower has gotten a bad rep just like goldenrod.  People think the pollen is the cause of their allergies this time of year.  However it's not them.  Goldenrod and sneezeweed are brightly colored and happen to bloom at the same time as ragweed. Ragweed flowers are small and white - not as noticeable as these brilliant yellow and gold flowers - but it's ragweed's pollen that causes the itchy eyes, sneezing, and stuffed nose in some people.  Fortunately, I'm not affected.  There is a stand of it ragweed near the house and I've been sleeping w/ the windows open every night w/ no ill effects.   However when the fields are full of blooming goldenrod, sneezeweed, and asters it does mean that summer is coming to an end. Reminds me of the end of a fireworks display when the whole sky lights up w/ a final burst of color.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016


I looked up from my chair in the study. Ori was in the middle of the living room sitting possessively near a ribbon on the floor.  Uh-oh. This was bad. There are no ribbons in the house. Went over to check. Not a ribbon but a good sized garter snake. While I'm careful to check Ori before she comes back inside the house (vermin have to be eaten on the deck), I leave the door to the garage open in the summer so Indy can go out to her run whenever she likes. Based on a puncture mark on the back of the snake, Ori must have caught this snake in the garage and hauled it in for my "enjoyment". The snake had already figured out that if it didn't move the cat stopped bothering it. When I  tried to shoo the snake into a wastepaper basket though that was a different matter and it quickly darted for the couch. Ori headed it off. The snake reared up trying to bite but Ori was too fast. I considered my options. Something had to be done or Ori would eventually lose interest and I'd find the snake's desiccated body when turning the cushions. The proper way to catch a snake is grabbing it just behind the head but I'd seen that little thing strike out at Ori and was pretty sure I wouldn't be as quick as Ori was in evading it's fangs (yep, garter snakes have two sharp teeth in the back of their mouth). Herpetologists in old scary movies drape the snake's body over a stick. I'm building a kite so grabbed two framework sticks and tried to push one under the middle of the snake. The snake just wriggled off. I looked at the snake. This time I pushed the stick under the body much closer to the head. Better balanced this way the snake didn't move but hung quietly just raising it's head to see what was going to happen. I carried it on the stick out to the deck where it rather gracefully slid off the edge. Thank you, Svengoolie!

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Mushrooms and fungi

 We've had adequate rainfall all summer long.  Spring and late summer/early fall are great times to go mushroom hunting.   All kinds grow here - boletes, brackets, coral, sponge, slime, puffballs, sac, jelly toothed, and gilled varieties.

 Best place to find them is in the old woods.  There aren't a lot of other small things competing for resources, it stays moist, and there are lots of things fungi like to eat.   At first it's hard to see them.  I need to find at least one.  After that suddenly there are a myriad of them popping out of the ground everywhere around you.  Once I started seeing them I realized how hard it was to walk w/o stepping on any.
 They grow in colonies.  The same type of mushroom will be found in close proximity to others of it's variety.  My understanding is that they are probably all parts of the same subterranean organism.  However, digging won't unearth some immense throbbing body.  The underground portion of the fungi is mycelium branching out through the soil, wood, or whatever other food source.  These mushrooms are just the "fruit".

I'll peruse my books to try and determine what kind of mushrooms I find.  Books usually denote which mushrooms are edible.  However those same books remind the reader multiple times that many edible mushrooms resemble inedible ones.  The poisonous ones will make you immediately sick with nausea, vomiting, cramps, diarrhea.  Those you'll recover from in a couple of days.   The deadly ones you won't feel any symptoms for awhile - maybe as much as a day. Those are the ones you need to get to a doc immediately since they are already damaging your internal organs.  One more tip - if the fungi is brightly colored it's rarely worth eating.

With all of these delicious poisons at hand, kinda makes you wonder why the old West had so much gun violence.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Staghorn Sumac

I know someone who wants to paint rocks this winter so I planned on trekking over to the creek to get some water smoothed ones. Indy and I first walked through the gravel pit.  Forgot that the glaciers had picked up rocks, tumbled them, and obligingly dropped them here eons ago. Before we left the pit my jean pockets bulged w/ stones. We took the right-of-way shortcut through the swamp. Next to a spring there I found a quartz rock. Not sure quartz will make a good medium for painting since it's smooth and not porous but I'm a sucker for shiny rocks so carried it along. Had all of the extra weight I could carry this trip so will have to try looking for rocks in the creek another day. At home I unloaded my treasures and made a cairn at the edge of the deck. Truth be told, I'm a sucker for most rocks so I'm glad to have an excuse to go rock hunting again.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Barn swallows

It's been raining all day. Good day for housework. Not much on TV on a Saturday morning so I put in the DVD that I had ordered through the library system for background noise. It's "Medical School for Everyone: Emergency Medicine" - part of the Great Courses series. Bad mistake. Great Courses films a teacher in a university type setting giving hours of lectures. Unlike some university classes though, this teacher is the best of the best on whichever subject you chose. Soon I was sitting rapt in front of the TV. I even grabbed a pad to take notes (there are no exams of course, old habit I guess.) I'm not exactly sure what I expected from this subject but it was fascinating to hear what docs are thinking when in ER settings. The logic reminded me of finding a problem in a computer system from the clues in the output (except, of course, the computer didn't lie to you and the consequences of mistakes weren't usually dire.) Still I basically spent three hours this morning just watching TV. Get's worse - there are three more disks on this subject to watch.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Dramatic Sunrise

Guess I didn't sleep well last night. Took awhile to get to sleep. Seemed I thought of one more thing I should do before going to sleep too many times. Got up so often that Indy finally jumped off her usual spot at the foot of the bed and laid on the floor. Woke up around 3 a.m. Listened to a short BBC radio talk about naturalist John Muir and how he loved being out in a storm to truly experience it.  The end of the broadcast was interrupted by a public notice that strong winds and rain were coming and people in it's path should take cover. My town was even named as being in it's path in another 40 minutes. Remembered I hadn't put things back in place after mowing yesterday. So I got up, went outside, moved things around plus drove the car in the garage. Decided to do the 'John Muir thing' and sat out on the deck w/ Indy watching lightening flashes gradually coming closer. When I felt rain drops thought I'd 'experience' the rest of the storm from inside. The sound of rain put me to sleep but soon Indy started barking at the front door. I looked out and saw car lights turning in the driveway. 4 a.m. seemed a little early for visitors. However, the car stopped before coming further down the driveway and I realized it was a storm watcher. Must have been a threat of tornadoes from the storm and my driveway is a great place to see over the countryside. I went back to bed. When I checked my Fitbit this morning it registered that while I technically slept long enough to make my goal, the time was too fragmented to count as a good night's sleep. Not a problem - always have the option of naps.

Thursday, August 18, 2016


 My guests were bemoaning the fact that they hadn't seen any deer while they stayed here.   Last night though deer seemed to be everywhere.  It helped that Indy and I were taking a late afternoon walk through the fields.   The deer were just getting up from their daytime beds and they were hungry.  These two fawns noticed us a way off but decided we were too slow to be much of a threat at that distance.   They are still sporting spots but by next month will be totally independent of mom.

As we got closer to the house a group of deer jumped off through the meadow - just clearing the tall grass where they had been well hidden.  One little deer stayed put - hoping that standing still would be enough for me to pass her by.   It's true that if I hadn't seen her move earlier, I would have assumed all of the deer were gone.   Eventually being alone w/ a predator nearby was just too much for her to bear and she took off to join the rest of the herd.  Take a look and see if you would have noticed her.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Glade in the Forest

Before going to bed I've taken to sitting out on the deck first and doing a crossword puzzle. Indy comes out and sits in the grass keeping vigil. First thing I notice is the owls start hooting to let the rest of their family know where they are. A background insect hum is omnipresent this time of year. I notice it more, plus the high pitched trills of tree frogs, as the other sounds of the day go away. Tonight storms are blowing in. Occasional long slashes of cloud to cloud lightening add some little excitement. Suddenly the meadow lights up as all of the goldenrod catch the last rays of sunset. Just as quickly they fade. There won't be any twilight tonight. The storm clouds will swallow up that last portion of clear sky soon. I give a quick whistle and Indy follows me into the house. My ideal nightlife.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Meadowhawk dragonfly

My brother Phil called last night and talked about touring a John Deere site where the large tractors are made. He was impressed w/ the multiple flat screens that swiveled w/ the tractor seat and automatic controls. I had breakfast this morning w/ my other brother Russell and told him about it. Russell said he'd driven some of the big tractors on a former job - equipped w/ GPS, auto steering, jump seats, etc. His boss had taken him out to a field on the first day and told him to bring a newspaper because he'd need something to do while the tractor did all of the work - Russ was only along for the ride. Made me think that when we siblings try to regale the family's younger generations w/ tales of driving tractor when we were only nine years old, they'll shrug and say, "So?"

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Arrowhead flowers

There are lots of quiz websites that pop up if you google "Who should I vote for?".    I played eight of them. Figured that way I wouldn't be depending on only one test that might have a bias. Didn't really need to do so many, the results from all of them were for the same candidate that I plan to vote for anyway. Well ... there was one that came up w/ a candidate no longer in play - that surprised me - but at least it was a person in the same political party. Decided to do the same thing w/ "Which Star Trek character are you?" since there are many of the same sort of quiz websites for that question also. Those results weren't as homogeneous - my results ran the gambit of Spock (science officer) to Scotty (the engineer). Maybe the differences between political vs. TV show website reliability is reality vs. fiction. Sometimes just gotta figure out which is which.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Cow Parsnip

Mom used to get up from the supper table and turn off the TV momentarily when a commercial popped on that she thought was not proper. I don't remember what the ads were - maybe for bras or other underclothing. Over time we've all become much more blase about what gets hyped between shows. Superlatives about tampons, catheters, and Viagra-type pills have no effect any longer on us. However, I was seriously grossed out by a new ad for an ear wax removal gizmo. At first I was holding it all together until the actor said, "Look at all the wax" and the scene broke away to show a closeup of the gadget w/ something yellow on it. I turned away and gagged. I agree w/ mom.  There are just some things that shouldn't be shown on TV.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Sultry Sunrise

Excerpts from this week's Sheriff's Log:

  • July 29 12:15 a.m. A man reported his neighbor's cattle were again in his yard.  He said next time he'd shoot them.  He was advised to call law enforcement instead.
  • July 29 8:41 p.m. Traffic stop for speeding.  The driver said he was having a digestive issue and needed to find a restroom quickly.
  • July 30 10:30 p.m. A woman reported items missing from her apartment but she wasn't sure what was gone.  She was given a form to complete when she remembered what was missing.
  • July 31 6:27 a.m. Caller reported a truck in the ditch but no one around.  The truck smelled of beer.  Deputy found a wedding invitation for July 30 inside truck.  The driver was located and failed a breath test.  He was arrested for OWI.
  • August 1 7:45 a.m. A jail inmate stabbed a deputy with a spork.
  • August 1 9:21 a.m. A man reported he left his gun on top of his truck and drove to work.  It was now gone.  He retraced his route from work but couldn't find it.
  • August 3 2:58 a.m. 911 call from driver who said he was lost on a state highway and running out of gas.  Deputy gave directions to nearest gas station.
  • August 3 6:48 p.m. A woman reported when she returned to her residence after being released from jail, her landlord had moved her belongings to her car.  She said her cash, credit card, and fentanyl patches were missing.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Purple coneflower

After a quick morning walk w/ Indy, I went to Coffee and Conversation at the library. Did some work in the garage this afternoon and then volunteered at the library tonight. When I got home from that the Fitbit said I still had +2000 steps to get to my daily goal. So Indy and I took an after dark walk. There wasn't much twilight. The sky was completely overcast. Indy likes these kind of walks though I'm not sure why. She puts her nose to the ground and runs everywhere. The countryside no longer is in color but has become varying shades of gray. Maybe she enjoys not relying on eyesight. I tried using my other senses too. My nose told me neighbor Schmitz had spread manure on the field across the road. My ears picked out the sound of frogs, insects, and one pesky mosquito. Then the whole western horizon lit up - storms on the way. My Fitbit shuddered on my arm indicating daily goal reached. Good time to head home.

Tuesday, August 09, 2016


Partisan Primary today.  The district supreme court recently ruled that state laws here restricting where/when early voting could take place and requirements for allowable voter ID were created specifically w/ the idea to disenfranchise certain voters and were thus illegal.  (Not to mention the state could not show voter fraud had taken place requiring these more stringent laws.)    I walked into the town hall and the three poll workers greeted me by name.  I did still need to show ID.  I panicked a bit when the pocket I thought I had put my driver's license in came up empty.  If I lost it I wouldn't be able to get a replacement in time to vote. (Found the errant license in a back pocket.)  Barb, the chief election inspector, said that kind of issue would be fixed by the new voting rules coming after the district supreme court decison.  She would let me know when the new training would be since I'd be working the November election.  I think it's bizarre to be changing voting laws just before a major election.  I also find it hard to believe any political party would be so un-American as to enact laws making it harder for people to vote.   However, come to think of it, my state was the poster boy for gerrymandering after the last census.  Guess it's painfully obvious that some people we elect are more loyal to their political party than to the people they represent.